Thursday, 27 October 2016

Wonderful Exhibition by Kathy Shaw-Urlich

This entry was first posted in April 2016, but was deleted by mistake and is now re-posted

Northlanders have been enjoying a wonderful exhibition at Kaan Zamaan Gallery in Kerikeri.  I have blogged before about the stained-glass of Kathy Shaw-Urlich, the British-born woman of Maori descent who now lives at Whatuwhiwhi in the Far North. Kathy trained in the mediaeval skills of stained glass painting. She draws on imagery from her Maori heritage as well as her European background and uses those wonderful skills to produce amazing work (see my previous blog entries in 2012 and 2013,

Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 and has been undergoing a range of treatment for the disease.  The panels which are the centre-piece of this exhibition were created in a ten week period of respite from treatment prior to starting a strenuous course of chemotherapy which is currently underway (Kathy, our thoughts are with you). The artist tells us that the ideas behind the works had been developing throughout her treatment.  

The title work for the exhibition, Easter Rising (above) offers a nod to the Irish Easter rising of 1916 and her father's Dublin ancestors.  The range of rich imagery reflects Easter goodies, and Easter hares in the fields of the Northern spring. In a central reference to her bid for recovery, a phoenix rises before a Cross, around which are gathered the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Saint John the Beloved, as they would appear in mediaeval glass. Another mediaeval emblem is the White Hart of Hertford, Kathy's birthplace, one of which she saw on Easter Monday 1997.

Many layers of ideas and symbols are present in all the works in the exhibition, reflecting Kathy's bicultural heritage and her thoughts about her own past, present and future. These are explored in the explanatory labels for the works. 
Red Monkey Knife Edge

Hanging On for Dear Life

2016 is the Chinese year of the Red Monkey. This work also references the fierce red chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, while Hanging on for Dear Life includes a ladder to Heaven, eventually, across the Great Water.

Pounamu Whenua

St Michel and the Dragon

In these works Kathy explores the heritage of both her mother and her husband in Te Wai Pounamu, and her own experiences in Celtic Brittany.

Maria All Mothers

Anaheranui Rawhaera

The Blue Madonna is adorned with flowers and stars, and with the holy dove God's hand blesses. The healing Archangel Raphael blesses a woman in prayer, who attains an angel's wing.

Kahu 1

Kahu 2


The Kahu diptych references the hunter-like Orion, with feather cloak for protection and flight,  and Te Wahine o Te Moana, who joins Orion in the heavens.

Anaheranui Rawhaera

The Green Healing Archangel Raphael, with Jesus suffering on the cross, His breast scars like barbed wire, prayers of supplication, and healing green plants spiky aloe and kawakawa, prolific in the Far North. Revelation 22: 2 references the Tree of Life, with its leaves for the healing of all nations, the central motif in the window by Wilhelmina Geddes in Belfast, which I discussed in my blog on William Wheeler (see That window, which Kathy drew to my attention, has been important to her for many years, all the more so now, with its message of hope of healing for all.

Acknowledgement: I'm grateful to Kathy Shaw-Urlich and to Julia Reinholt of Kaan Zamaan Gallery in Kerikeri for permission to photograph these works and reproduce them here.

Posted By Blogger to New Zealand Glass on 4/22/2016 09:32:00 am

Kathy Shaw Urlich 1954 – 2016

Northland’s renowned Māori stained glass artist Kathy Shaw-Urlich has died peacefully after a long battle with cancer. 

Kathy preparing panels for the wharekai at Whakapara marae in March 2013
Kathy was born in England, but as the daughter of Ron Shaw an English aircraft engineer and Desiree Joan Browne, a former Miss Northland, she affiliated to Ngāti Hau and Te Uri o Te Aho o Ngāpuhi. She made her first visit to New Zealand at the age of 26 to visit her Māori grandmother, and as a proud descendant of Patuone she eagerly explored her Māori heritage and especially her connection to her grandmother’s whānau of Ngāti Hau and Whakapara marae.

Although never one to promote herself, Kathy in fact achieved considerable success. She topped her class and won a national competition as well as a scholarship while studying at the Swansea Institute, in Wales, before completing a Masters in Fine Art at Central St Martins in London.  In 1990 she exhibited glass panels at New Zealand House for the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi and held another solo exhibition, Te Po me Te Ao (The Dark and the Light) at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

She was commissioned to design the inaugural window for the prestigious Human Genome Project campus near Cambridge. Her tribute panel to Rahera Heta Windsor, kuia of Ngāti Ranana in London, was one of 100 pieces selected by the Corning Glass Museum in New York, from 2,500 international entries, to feature in New Glass Review, the world’s leading journal of innovation in glass art. 

Wharenui window, Whakapara marae, March 2013
In 2007 Kathy married Rev. Rapata Urlich and moved to New Zealand, where she and Robert established a home and a studio for making stained glass artwork at Whatuwhiwhi. Kathy connected with the glass community in New Zealand, and made many friends, personal and professional, both locally in Northland and nationwide. 

She exhibited her work in solo exhibitions and in group shows.  Most of her public commissions are in England, but she made a wonderful suite of work for St Isaac’s church, the wharenui and the wharekai at Whakapara, the latter made with the support of a Creative NZ Te Waka Toi grant. She designed a wonderful Passchendaele memorial window for All Saints Church in Kaeo, though sadly she did not live long enough to complete the commission.  

Altar window, St Isaac's church, Whakapara, 1999
Her works are held in many private collections in New Zealand, as well as England, Wales, France and Iceland. News of her death has been greeted with a great sense of loss by those who are proud to own her work and by all those who loved and admired a warm and wonderful woman who bore her increasing illness with strength, faith and courage. 

Moe mai rā, e hine, te tohunga karaehe.

Pouakai Pareora, 2016